We tramp through life excessively fixated on the spoon.
How to hold it, not jiggle it, at what angle to best position it, how to best place our steps on flat ground, or for climbing stairs. Rarely taking extended moments to gaze up and around.
” “The wise man listened attentively to the boy’s explanation of why he had come, but told him that he didn’t have time just then to explain the secret of happiness. He suggested that the boy look around the palace and return in two hours.
“‘Meanwhile, I want to ask you to do something,’ said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that held two drops of oil. ‘As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill.’ “The boy began climbing and descending the many stairways of the palace, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After two hours, he returned to the room where the wise man was. “‘Well,’asked the wise man, ‘did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in my dining hall? Did you see the garden that it took the master gardener ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?’ “The boy was embarrassed, and confessed that he had observed nothing. His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.” (The Alchemist. Paulo Coelho)
We can pass through life’s odyssey tangibly thinking the oil on the spoon prevents us from gazing around, relaxing, or savoring the moments.
We can easily resent the oil, and wish to toss that bothersome spoon. Because to defend that oil, we sometimes concentrate too intently on the spoon. Poof, and life is gone.
Many of us advance through gardens, rather than saunter.
At times we bypass mountains, without a gaze. We romp through the temples and palaces without experiencing or seeing much of the beauty. Head down, fixated on delivering the oil with our spoon. Seeing little, marveling at little, stopping to soak the beauty very little.
I’ve walked through palaces, gardens, forests, and mountains with my head fixated on a spoon. Because I thought the oil demanded it.
“‘Then go back and observe the marvels of my world,’said the wise man. ‘You cannot trust a man if you don’t know his house.’ “Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration of the palace, this time observing all of the works of art on the ceilings and the walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around him, the beauty of the flowers, and the taste with which everything had been selected. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail everything he had seen. “‘But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?’asked the wise man. “Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was gone. “‘Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you,’said the wisest of wise men. ‘The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.’”
The shepherd said nothing. He had understood the story the old king had told him. A shepherd may like to travel, but he should never forget about his sheep.” (The Alchemist. Paulo Coelho)
The oil is important… we can’t pretend it isn’t. The temptation is to toss it aside and run recklessly into the garden, making it all about us and our experiences. We all know people who have done this and hurt many people as a result.
How do we balance the two?
A shepherd does not forget his sheep, but he can slow down and enjoy the view around him. It is ok to lift the head and look around. To stop walking and take in some marvelous views. Sheep don’t move that fast, nor require that intense a gaze all the time. They can chew on grass for hours without you telling them what to do.
Sheep are important, but take lots of time for the mountains and garden too.